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Taking a broader perspective…

Solidarity with the police?

Jamie Potter is a graduate in Journalism and Politics, a member of the Labour Party and his blog can be found here.

Today the police made noises about taking to the streets to protest against impending job cuts. Not nice when the shoe’s on the other foot, is it?

Guy Aitchison asked on Twitter whether people would be joining them. Cue much pondering on and my conclusion that no, I won’t be supporting the police. This isn’t so much to do with the idea they’re the enduring violent arm of the state, though admittedly that is part of the reason, but more because of the most recent violence meted out to protesters regardless of any provocation, simply for being there.

At some of the student protests before Christmas, notably those on the day of the actual vote on tuition fees, the police sought from the outset to curtail and control any act of dissent, whether it was a civil march or something more fluid; whether the participants were anonymous or unmasked, young or old alike. This is not a new occurrence – it’s happened countless times before around the country. I first experienced it at the G20 meeting in London where I was kettled, stopped and searched and narrowly avoided being subject to a police raid in the squat I stayed in overnight. I’ve already written (angrily) about my distrust of the police. The point is, this dangerous attitude towards protesters remains and appears unlikely to change anytime soon, so why should I support them? What’s to say this support will go without thanks when I next face them on the streets? Will we receive solidarity in return?

I understand that sounds a bit them and us. I recognise police officers are still individuals and many don’t subscribe to the authoritarian, bullies in uniform attitude that is so prevalent throughout the various factions of the police. So this is why I also won’t be ‘kettling’ the police. It sounds like a fun idea and I actually got a little excited when I saw somebody suggest it on Twitter. But as individuals officers have a right to protest, even if it’s to protect jobs I’m at odds with. I guess I’m taking the moral stance here by appreciating and accepting that. I wouldn’t like to think that targeting police protests may put off the rank and file from one day dissenting and standing up for my ideas too. So I won’t stand in solidarity but I’m quite happy to ignore them.


Filed under: Activism, Law and Order, ,

A call for new intergenerational solidarity….

Zain Sardar is a Student Support Officer for the national Young Greens.

The recent protests surrounding the government’s decision to raise tuition fees to £9,000 has put intergenerational conflict at the forefront of a media storm and no doubt the public’s mind. Indeed, the raising of tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA amongst other public spending cuts constitutes the coalition’s attack not just on young people, but on the very social fabric of our existence and our communities; in-turn, this is having a profound effect generally on how generations relate to each other.

The current generation of young people, who have graduated from University and now find themselves in a difficult job market, who are at University, Sixth-form or Further Education colleges and High Schools have a lot to blame the older generation for. The younger generation face the prospect of paying more for courses, living longer with their parents because of the high price of property and now deposits on mortgages, and the prospect of few available jobs and working longer into old age when they do get a job.

To take a significant example of where the younger generation is struggling outside of the education sector, take the housing market. According to new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on Young People and Homeownership, in 1991, 50 per cent of younger men (20-24 years old) and 32 per cent of younger women lived with their parents. In 2006 this increased to 58 and 39 per cent respectably. Additionally, average age of homeowner is now 32 for those with financial assistance from family and 36 for those without it.

Young people generally associate home ownership with growing personal freedom and confidence, but with the aspirations of many young people for home ownership frustrated, they are finding that life opportunities such as education, employment and emotional relationships being put on hold due to the difficulties and time consuming nature of getting onto the housing ladder. Getting on the housing market has become a high stakes business for young people, and with the shortage of social housing and the instability the private rented sector affords, young people seem more than ever before socially excluded from independent living.

For the above problems, the younger generation blames those who benefited from free education, prosperity, a bountiful supply of social and affordable housing and full employment for their current plight. According to the British Social Attitudes Survey for 2010 (National Centre for Social Research), over half of 19-29 years olds (55 %) reported having been treated with prejudice because of their age, far more than any other age group. The results of this survey came out as the predicament of young people was being spelt out in the literature, most notable, in the book The Jilted Generation by Shiv Malik and Ed Howker. One of the proposals they offer is a means-tested approach to fuel benefits, which would save money to spend on the younger generation.

On the same lines, recently in The Guardian Geoffrey Wheatcroft wrote;

‘We were incredibly lucky. We grew up in what the French call les trentes glorieuses, the astonishing three decades that followed 1945, with unimagined prosperity and an all-nourishing state that provided healthcare and education. To cap it all, and makes us softer still, we enjoyed unprecedented personal freedom. Then came the supposed victory for the West. But by then we had taken over, and what a horrible mess we’ve made. If there’s any hope at all, it must be that our crappy generation can slink away in shame, and let a younger generation see if they can manage things better. They could scarcely do worse.’

However much I agree with the likes of Wheatcroft above and Shiv Malik, I believe now is the time for a new intergenerational solidarity.

More than ever before, it seems that we need to stand up for young people who feel let down. The recent protests regarding the raising of tuition fees shows that young people will not take the attacks on their future lying down. However, in the coming months as students launch a new wave of protests, with public sector workers and trade unions, now is the time we don’t point fingers at past generations, but stand together for the universal nature of welfare state provision that caters for richer, for poorer and binds us together in collective unity.

The only way to solve the problems that young people are facing is a renewal of intergenerational solidarity, trust and understanding, and not an escalation of it. One hopes that protests in the New Year will be a living manifestation of this.

Filed under: Activism, , , ,

Loose Cannons…..

Cory Hazlehurst blogs at Paperback Rioter.

A note of warning: one of the pictures on this article isn’t nice. If you’re a bit squeamish, then be prepared to scroll past it rather quickly.

At the moment it’s hard to know for certain whether “Britain’s most liberal government ever” (© Nick Clegg) will allow police to use water cannon on protesters. Home Secretary Theresa May at first said that she would not intervene to stop police from using them, then appeared to rule the prospect out.

However, police officers appear to still be in favour of using water cannons. A recent opinion poll found that 69% supported their use against protesters, as against 23% who thought it unacceptable.

Most on the left are rightly shocked that a government could even consider such tactics against peaceful protesters. There are a number of issues with using water cannons.

Firstly, the fact that soaking people in water and then kettling them – forcing them to stand in the freezing cold for hours at a time, without letting people in and out – is obviously detrimental to the health of protestors. Imagine if this happened in the freezing temperatures we have at the moment. People could easily catch pneumonia.

There’s also the fact that if you are hit by a water cannon directly in the face, the consequences can be absolutely horrific. Via The Third Estate I came across this:

(and here comes the picture)

The picture of Wagner being helped away from the melee, his eyes swollen shut and bleeding, came to symbolise what critics claim was a heavy-handed approach by police trying to break up a demonstration against the controversial revamp of Stuttgart’s main train station.

Wagner’s doctor said the patient was currently blind and might never have his sight fully restored.

On Wednesday, news magazine Stern reported on its website that Wagner, a retired engineer had been trying to help some young people who were caught in the stream of water.

In an interview to be published on Thursday, Wagner told the magazine he had raised his arms and waved at police to indicate to them they should stop. But he was hit directly in the face with such force that he lost consciousness.

“It felt like the punch of a giant boxer,” Wagner said.

Given all this, using water cannon can already be seen as an erosion of our right to protest peacefully.

However, I think there is another, more sinister, reason why water cannon should not be used, which is not really being discussed.

At most police protests over the past couple of years, some of their more contemptible tactics have only come to the public’s attention because they have been captured on cameras, or mobile phones, belonging to ordinary people.

Take, for instance, the footage of Ian Tomlinson being struck to the floor by a police officer, the camera phone footage of police horses charging peaceful demonstrators, students in a kettle being crushed by police described by a Conservative member of the Greater London Authority as a “ghastly” incident, or pictures of a disabled journalist being pulled out of his wheelchair by police officers:

If police had used water cannon on protestors, this could damage electronic recording equipment belonging to the protestors. That makes it less likely, presumably, that these images and videos would have survived.

And that makes me very scared indeed.

Filed under: Activism, Law and Order, , , , , ,




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